HEQCO’s Program Evaluation Manual For Programs Related to Access and Retention was written by Helen Tewolde and Jess McKeown.
HEQCO’s Program Evaluation Manual For Programs Related to Access and Retention
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) is an agency of the Government of Ontario that advances evidence-based research for the continued improvement of the postsecondary education (PSE) system in Ontario. To enhance the access, quality and accountability of Ontario’s colleges and universities, HEQCO supports a variety of program-evaluation projects in the PSE sector to ensure that promising practices are recognized and advanced through program and policy development.
Program evaluation is a priority at HEQCO for many reasons. The Government of Ontario spends millions of dollars each year on programs and initiatives intended to support student access and retention in postsecondary education. We need to ask ourselves: What works? What is our target? What are we measuring? Without consistent evaluations of publicly funded programs, it is impossible to answer these questions.
The Canadian Evaluation Society defines program evaluation as the systematic assessment of the design, implementation or results of an initiative for the purposes of learning or decision-making.1 Program evaluations can help an organization or institution understand: a) if, how and why a program works the way it does; b) whether a program is achieving the intended outcomes; c) how a program might be improved, and/or d) whether a program can or should be scaled to other contexts. With such a broad definition, it is easy to see why program evaluations will drastically differ across contexts.
This manual aims to provide a concise overview of practical considerations and a guided process for those less familiar with planning and implementing a program evaluation. The primary intended audience for this manual are proponents of HEQCO’s Access and Retention Consortium (ARC), a community of practice for those evaluating programs that enhance student participation and success in PSE. This manual can also be used more generally by those who are interested in evaluating related programs across the higher education sector at large.